T HAS BEEN many years since the event that I am about to share with you happened. The year was 1935 and I was eight years old. Yet the memory of it remains as fresh in my mind as though it was yesterday.
My parents were devout Catholics. We lived in a little two room house, and when we kids ran out of things to do, mom would tell us stories from the Bible and also from the lives of Saints which she had heard. Sometimes Dad got into the act too, and I remember how one time he used the broom, waved it around, to show us how Moses had parted the Red Sea. (Dad loved telling stories.) Mom and Dad did not have much education, but they must have been well taught about their faith when they were young.
Prayer was always a part of our lives, and we were taught to pray as soon as we could speak. During the winter months we would all kneel on the floor every evening and say the rosary together.
We attended a mission church that was about three miles from our house. This particular Sunday, Dad hitched up our two horses, and took my brother and sister and myself to church in an open sleigh. It was January and very cold, about 25 to 30 degrees below zero Farenheit, with a north wind blowing. Not a nice day to be out. We were very poor and Mom, who didn't have a proper winter coat, stayed home with our youngest sister.
We arrived at church and rushed down to the basement to warm up around a pot-bellied stove. Then we went up to a very cold church — a building which isn't heated all week takes a long time to warm up.
In those days the laws of fasting before Communion were very strict. From midnight until after the Mass was over the next day, you could not eat anything or even have a drink of water. If someone forgot and ate something or had a drink they couldn't receive Communion. We always put something over the water pail so that no one would forget and take a drink. Our family seldom received Communion more often than once a month, especially in winter. The long hours without food and water, along with the cold, were often too much to bear; but this Sunday we were going to Communion.
Our priest always preached an hour, or so it seemed to me. The service was very long. He was a good priest, but was not really a very good preacher. By the time of Communion, I was bored, starved and cold — completely miserable! Any devotion I might have felt had disappeared and it was a grumpy little girl who walked up to the altar railing that day. I was not one bit happy.
As soon as I received Communion though, and returned to my place, a wonderful thing happened! I became aware of a very warm glow about the size of a dime in my chest. Immediately it came to my mind that it was the Host. This warm spot grew rapidly until my shoulders, arms, hands, and back felt warm. Soon my whole body, even my feet, were cozy and I was no longer hungry. Warmth, energy, and strength flooded my whole body right down to my toes. At the same time I began to feel a great happiness.
I had been taught to make a thanksgiving prayer after Communion, and as I thanked Jesus, I was positive he was doing something special for me. I've always believed that Jesus was really present in the Eucharist but this particular Communion became a real sign of his presence within me.
Mass ended and we piled into the sleigh to go home. I felt exhilarated the whole trip and didn't try to protect myself, yet I wasn't cold. My poor brother and sister complained all the way, and were crying loudly by the time we entered the house, because their hands and feet were hurting from the cold.
Mom said to me, "You are not crying?" I answered, "No, I'm not cold." I almost felt guilty for being so comfortable when they were not. This extraordinary experience lasted about an hour after I returned home and then gradually faded away. But I never forgot it.
I never told anyone about what had happened. A certain fear of not being believed prevented me from sharing this experience with others. Then I reasoned that I should share it; perhaps it could help strengthen someone's faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Through Communion, I discovered the mystery of God's power working in me. That experience and many others in my life have taught me how incredibly Jesus loves me. It is there especially that he gives himself to me, comforting, enlightening and healing me so that in turn, I may warm, enlighten, comfort, and nourish others in love.
God bless you all.